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Beyond "True" and "False" Memories: Remembering and Recovery in the Survival of Childhood Sexual Abuse

Hall, Joanne M. RN, PhD; Kondora, Lori L. RN, CS, MS

Advances in Nursing Science: June 1997 - Volume 19 - Issue 4 - p 37-54
Recovery and Rehabilitation

As survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) struggle to grasp and reclaim their selves, their stories, and their futures from the grip of aftereffects of trauma, the processes of recovery and rehabilitation are interwoven with remembering.Questions about women's delayed memories of CSA have stirred a controversy that places client's credibility at stake. Nurses need to understand the historical and political roots of this controversy and to be familiar with the empirical knowledgebase that exists about traumatic memory. This article is a critical feminist analysis of the topic. Its purposes are to provide a historical context for the current debate about "true" and "false" CSA memories; to discuss selected literature about conventional understandings of memory and their relevance to this debate; to present an integrative, phenomenological approach to memory in the recovery and rehabilitation of women CSA survivors; and to use the insights gained to draw conclusions from a nursing perspective about the authenticity of delayed CSA memories. Phenomenological concepts of reminding, reminiscing, recognition, body memory, place memory, and commemoration are discussed as they illuminate the complexity of traumatic memories and the recovery and rehabilitation needs of survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

Assistant Professor (Hall); Doctoral Candidate (Kondora), University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Nursing, Madison, Wisconsin.

At the time this work was conducted, the first author was supported by a National Research Service Award Individual Postdoctoral Fellowship grant F32NR06817 from the National Institute of Nursing Research, National Institutes of Health.

Copyright © 1997 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.